Memphis and its Necropolis - History and Facts | History Hit

Memphis and its Necropolis

Teet Ottin

04 Jan 2023
Image Credit: travelview /

About Memphis and its Necropolis

The Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis was the first ever capital of a unified Egypt. Founded approximately 5,000 years ago, the settlement with its surrounding Necropolis have become one of Egypt’s most enduring icons. The site was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1979.

The history of Memphis and its Necropolis

The city is believed to have been founded by Menes, the first Pharaoh of a unified Egypt. It was known by the local people as Inebu-hedj, meaning ‘the white walls’. This may have been a reference to the royal palace, which was built out of whitewashed brick. The city served as the capital throughout the Old Kingdom, and in parts during the Middle and New Kingdom, when Thebes and Itjtaw were from time to time designated as the centre of the Empire. Memphis remained an incredibly important settlement up to the Islamic period, when the founding of new cities ultimately overshadowed the ancient capital.

Memphis was surrounded by an ever increasing necropolis, showcasing not only its administrative weight but also its role in the religious spheres of the Egyptian world. It was a city sacred to the Gods. The Necropolis stretched to the north and south of the capital, including the famous Giza plateau. Many of the very first monumental Egyptian stone buildings were constructed in the region.

The modern day name Memphis derives from the Ancient Greek version of the name of a nearby pyramid – Men-nefer.

Memphis and its Necropolis today

Much of the former capital city has been lost to the sands of time, with mostly small scale ruins remaining. The most impressive survivors of that bygone era can be found in the surrounding Necropolis. The many graves and pyramids are some of the most famous in all of Egypt, displaying centuries worth of craftsmanship and innovation. The earliest one is the famed stepped Pyramid of Djoser – together with the remains of its mortuary complex, this is a truly fascinating site.

The largest Pyramid can be found at the Giza Necropolis. Described as one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure on earth for thousands of years. Besides great pyramids surrounded by the Sahara desert, there are multiple temple ruins that can also be explored.

Getting to Memphis and its Necropolis

Memphis is located approximately 12 miles (20km) from the city of Cairo. The easiest way to get to the ancient city is by flying to Cairo International Airport and taking a taxi, which can be found outside Terminal 1,2 and 3. The best way to explore the necropolis is with an organised tour.

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Egypt's UNESCO Sites

Explore the wonders of ancient Egypt with a journey to its UNESCO World Heritage sites. From the majestic Pyramids of Giza to the historic treasures of Luxor and the mystical temples of Abu Simbel, immerse yourself in the rich history and architectural marvels of this captivating land.